A great way to experience the eclectic quartier life in Paris neighborhoods is through an excursion to Chinatown in the 13th Arrondissement. Certainly the subtlest Chinatown around—you won’t find vibrant arched gates and dragon figures marking the premises—it’s surprisingly considered the largest Asian neighborhood in Europe.
Photo via misschipie.wordpress.com.
The area experienced its first influx of immigrants around the time of World War I when the French, in dire need of manpower, brought over a number of Chinese and Vietnamese to support the war effort. The second wave, which occurred in the 1970s, was sparked by political unrest in Southeast Asia, largely in Vietnam. Today, the quartier stretches roughly from the Place d’Italie to the Porte de Choisy and houses an array of restaurants, shops and bakeries that make a detrip to the 13th Arrondissement a must. Check out our tips on how to spend a perfect afternoon in Chinatown—an area that’s just begging to be discovered.
A bowl of pho. Photo via tripadvisor.fr.
87, avenue d’Ivry, in the 13th Arrondissement. 01 45 86 91 90.
86, avenue de Choisy, in the 13th Arrondissement. 01 44 24 28 08.
Set the ball rolling with a tasty lunch at le Hawai, where you can slurp on some delicious pho or enjoy a variety of specialty noodle and rice dishes. The sausage appetizer, bo bun and viande speciale pho are our favorites. The welcoming waitstaff delivers friendly and fast service, while prices remain low as ever (10 euros per person). Ditch the rolls growing stale on the tables, as they’ll end up costing a euro a pop. If the place is packed, head to l’Indochine, a lovely Vietnamese restaurant just a few blocks up the road.
Vietnamese crêpe. Photo via cap-vietnam.com.
Boulangerie de Tolbiac
119, avenue d’Ivry, in the 13th Arrondissement. 01 44 97 44 92.
Le Nouveau Yv Nghy
67, avenue d’Ivry, in the 13th Arrondissement. 01 45 82 11 21.
45, avenue de Choisy, in the 13th Arrondissement. 01 45 86 70 94.
Instead of ordering dessert, opt for a treat at the Boulangerie de Tolbiac, which peppers a traditional selection of pains au chocolat and company with taro-flavored macarons, green tea mille-feuilles and many other exotic treats. If you’re craving the real deal rather than a subtle touch of Asian flavors, check out le Nouveau Yv Nghy. This bakery offers authentic moon cake, bona fide Chinese dessert rolls and much more. Did all that sugar leave you dry as dust? Grab a refreshing bubble tea at the Bubble House on the avenue de Choisy. The wide range of flavors includes sesame, mango, matcha and taro—all of which can be combined with dairy, almond or coconut milk on demand.
Bubble tea. Photo via sarah.fashion.over-blog.de.
Beauty Pit Stop
Mo Ny Coiffure
41, avenue de Choisy, in the 13th Arrondissement. 01 53 60 05 97.
Work in a beauty session at Mo Ny Coiffure before heading home to celebrate your discoveries of the day in the most unique of Paris neighborhoods. Get a mani/pedi, or a well-done (if not high-end) trim, or take advantage of the best deal: an expert eyebrow threading for only 8 euros. The women are nice as can be, and walk-ins are welcome. Ring the shop an hour in advance or pop by before lunch to avoid a wait.
44–48, avenue d’Ivry, in the 13th Arrondissement. 01 45 70 80 00.
168, avenue de Choisy, in the 13th Arrondissement. 01 44 24 06 72.
Time to stock up on some souvenirs—preferably edible ones! We love both the Tang Frères grocery shops located at either extremity of Chinatown. Whether you’re on the search for Thai basil, soba noodles or pickled eel, you’ll certainly find it in stock here.
The veggies cost next to nothing, so don’t expect the same standards of freshness that weekly markets uphold. Consider picking up one of the deliciously roasted ducks dangling in the window of the specialty store. They’re divinely crunchy and the perfect evening reminder of an exciting day spent exploring Chinatown, one of the most alluring Paris neighborhoods around.